Babyshambles ‘Sequal to the Prequal’ – Review

7 Sep
“There’s fewer more distressing sights than that of an English man in a baseball cap. We’ll die in the class we were born, that’s a class of our own my love”
Time For Heroes, 2002
“‘We could see monkeys / we could see snakes / we could see penguins / ah, penguins are great!’
Penguin, 2013
Pete Doherty is a more effective drugs deterrent than those gory images on cigarette packets or the Daily Mail’s horror stories about grizzly overdoses. If a friend of yours is considering ‘experimenting’ Just show them what happened to Doherty’s lyrical dexterity and they will never consider shooting up again..
Of course I’ve taken perhaps Doherty’s greatest lyric and contrasted it with his weakest but ‘Penguin’ is fairly representative of a dull, drained, expressionless record that seems totally at odds with the romantic lyricism of Doherty’s work up until now. For the most part on ‘Sequal to the Prequal’ Doherty and his band of merry men sound exactly like the hordes of wannabee libertines imitators that emerged in his wake. Right now Babyshambles have got nothing on The Wombats, Kooks, The Others, Boy Kill Boy or The View. To dust off an old phrase from the 00’s – this is nothing but landfill indie.
You can’t help but feel that if Doherty had been a bit more bothered, it could have actually been pretty good. First single ‘Nothing Comes to Nothing’, easily the most coherent and tuneful thing on here, suggests what a mature Pete Doherty record could sound like. A few weeks back I raved about Franz Ferdinand for still sounding exactly like the Franz Ferdinand we remember. However unlike ‘Right Action’, Babyshambles comeback single, ‘Nothing Comes To Nothing’ works despite sounding nothing like the band we remember. It’s Babyshambles without the shambles. The edge has been rounded off by warm acoustic guitars and friendly chords. Doherty’s vocals are polished and rehearsed. The mix is clean, dry and dynamic. There is no danger but it’s very listenable. If the whole album were like this then it would add up to a perfectly nice, enjoyable record. It’s not the production that’s necessarily the problem here (Although the always predictable Stephen Street does has done a typically bland job) It’s the product quality that lets it down.
There’s just not much to say about it because it doesn’t make me think or feel very much at all. Peter Doherty and his Babyshambles were THE hot topic in the indie world last decade; he was never short of things to say and interesting ways in which to say them. Even on 2007’s relatively sanitized ‘Shotter’s Nation’ he was still able to pull out some remarkable puns, melodies and anecdotes. On ‘Sequal to the Prequal’ he sounds like he’s run out of things to say.
‘Fireman’ is easily the most urgent song on here, but as an album opener it’s flawed. Its raucous pace and cutthroat guitar attack are almost an attempt to cover up the fact that there’s no real melody (and don’t get me started on Pete’s awfully affected west carrabian accent).
Whilst Fireman’s only real fault is that it’s an average song given the responsibility of opening the album, elsewhere things are genuinely farcical. There’s the aforementioned ‘Penguin’ with its trite lyrics and incoherent structure, but that’s a classic compared to the strangely sedate ‘Farmer’s Daughter’, a song that conjures some tragically boring imagery about sunlight on snow. It’s sixth form poetry from a former master of the form. The title track (and my what a dreadful title it is) revisits Pete’s love of music hall, and it’s easily the most playful song on here but that simply serves to shine a light on how weak the rest of the material is. And if music hall isn’t your thing then perhaps you’ll enjoy his take on dub. No? Then NEVER listen to the dire ‘Dr No’.
We can’t put all the blame on poor doped up Pete – his band mates Mick and Drew co-wrote the album and were mainly responsible for putting it together. Where Pete and Carl were once scrapping over who would get more songs on a record, now Pete is quite content to let much lesser mortals write an album around him. ‘Maybelline’ and ‘Picture Me a Hospital’ are fine, perfectly fine, but they sound like they were made by a band content to wallow in mediocrity. Pete is indefensible here. For the first time he’s as useless as the Daily Mail think he is. He sounds like a stranger – bewildered, dumb, fed up. There is some solace in the sheer existence of ‘Sequel’ – after all, fans have had to wait 6 years for a new album. But if this is what we’ve been waiting for then I kind of wish he’d stay hidden away for ever. Don’t do drugs kids.

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